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ch ch charleston, part 3

25 Mar

it’s no secret i love charleston. i’ve been quite a few times in the last few years and even shared some of my favorite wedding spots and other culinary musts. well i recently visited my beloved southern city yet again and discovered a few more destinations that i suggest anyone considering a trip check out.

first of all, you’re going to need a nice place to stay. look no further than zero george—a recently restored and newly-opened boutique hotel in a beautiful historic property. kudos to lynn and her  husband dean on dreaming this one up. the location is great too, with it being close to downtown and among the charming homes of the ansonborough neighborhood. and yes, that’s the beautiful room i had the privilege of staying in when i was there. could it be any lovelier? or more conducive to the best sleep you could ask for?

photo by corbin gurkin

speaking of ansonborough, make a reservation at anson’s, just a few blocks away. the staff and food are equally delightful.

the macintosh on king street is a new spot not to be missed. it’s busy without being loud and the food and drinks all sound so good it’s hard to choose. the best move? go with a few people so you can order a few dishes and share. the cocktail club upstairs is a fun lounge and they made a pretty mean manhattan with rye.

want a break from the traditional southern fare? try xiao bao biscuit, for some asian soul food. order the okonomiyaki with egg. you’ll thank me later.

i had never experienced chicken and waffles, and when i reviewed the menu at the rarebit it was obvious that i wouldn’t be able to resist. the result? a blissful plate of one strange yet delightful combination.

my final suggestion is one i only found out about on my final day in town (thanks sideshow press for the tip!). but i know it’ll be one of the first places i go to on my next trip. after all, coffee is the one thing i can’t start my day without. black tap brews good joe and ambiance. i wanted to sit in the sunny cafe and people watch for hours.

i’m already thinking of my next trip to the holy city. it’s never soon enough, and there are always new places to unearth and new months to experience the city during. i’m excited about future trips to check out cannon green, which is a new urban venue in the works that will house a pretty big guest list smack in the middle of the city.


sleepless in seattle

27 Mar

i went to seattle back in december and january, but there were honestly so many things to share it’s taken me a little longer than expected to get this blog together. oh, and there was no way i could fit it all into an itty bitty post. so get ready to scroll a lot for the 411.

i’m going to start with perhaps the emerald city’s most famous destination: pike place market. yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also amazing. i love a good farmer’s market, but this offers so much more! restaurants, fresh produce stands, and loads of charm. aside from wandering the stalls and watching the fishmongers work their magic…a few things to check out:

-the original starbucks. see where the mermaid got her start, at this tiny little outpost of the most famous bean on the planet.
-the market theater’s gum wall. yes, it’s what it sounds like. a wall covered in gum. quite artfully. bring purell though, you’ll want to smother yourself with it after checking out this masterpiece.
frank’s quality produce. it’s definitely quality. i dream about their jazz apples on a weekly basis.
mee sum pastry. i tasted the steamed chicken hum bao during one of the first days i was in town. i was so enamored that i went back two days later to have another one. haven’t found a comparable option in new york city yet.
-a stall or two away is cinnamon works, which boasts a variety of sweet treats to debate over. gluten-free? vegan? no worries, you’ll find something you can indulge in. my choice? the classic cinnamon roll.
the athenian. great breakfast spot. get a table by the window and enjoy the scenery with your crab cake eggs benedict.

ok, after you’ve got your taste of the public market, catch a free bus (yep, they’re free within an area of downtown) to the space needle. i have no shame going to touristy spots like this, because where else am i going to get a view from the top? plus, i went at dusk and got to watch the city’s lights go on. from way up high, i caught a glimpse of pier 70, which i immediately remembered as the real world house.

on the way home, i was yet again a sucker for the tourist trap. i took the monorail. but honestly, when have i ever done that? had to! plus, it took me back to just a few blocks from my hotel and ran more frequently than the bus.

a few downtown spots i grouped together: melrose market, uwajimaya, kinokuniya, and shanghai garden… melrose market reminds me a bit of chelsea market, here in manhattan, but on a much smaller scale. grab a cup of coffee and wander around for a little. uwajimaya was like no other market i’ve experienced. the asian grocery store had so many cool finds. even though i couldn’t read most of the labels, i loved walking the aisles. under the same roof is kinokuniya, a fabulous japanese bookstore i’ve been to here in new york, but always enjoy visiting. and then i crossed the street to shanghai garden for a delicious bowl of soup. a huge bowl, with shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, and hand-pulled noodles. while in the international district, i also swung by the old union station, which no longer services trains but the great hall does make for a great wedding venue!

i also checked out the seattle public library’s central branch. one of the most fascinating architectural specimens i’ve seen lately. it’s so stimulating visiting this spot that i’d check out books all the time if i lived nearby.

i spent a few hours in the fremont neighborhood, and stopped in to the vintage mall on the main stretch. yes, i wanted to buy everything. but i just picked up a pair of awesomely retro cat-eye glasses with sequins in the frames and fake plastic lenses. if mad men needed an extra, i’d put these on and be camera-ready in seconds.

walking around the queen anne hill neighborhood filled hours. i loved the mix of architecture, quaint streets, and the view from kerry park was noteworthy.

the olympic sculpture park, which is part of the seattle art museum, is quite a site. located right on the water, the views are great, but so is the artwork! it’s a versatile location to take portraits in too.

i channeled mcdreamy and even took the ferry. i hopped over to bainbridge island for a little bit and got the skyline view the entire way back.

ok, so where’d i stay? i split my time between two places. first, i stayed at hotel andra. a newer boutique hotel with modern decor and amazing hospitality. i loved the vanity in my room, where i would sit and get ready every morning. and the hook by the door, where i’d hang my coat every night. located downstairs is delicious dining in local superstar chef, tom douglas’s lola restaurant. and the house wine here puts all other house wines to shame.

the last few days i had a room at the fairmont olympic hotel. classic, massive, and quite elegant. my favorite part about this place was the hotel “car”, which just happened to be a luxurious jaguar complete with massaging seats and leg room for days. call ahead and request a ride to your destination (within a specific radius that’s about a mile) and they’ll drop you off. call back when you’re done and they’ll pick you up. no taxis. no hassle. amazing.

it’s pretty easy to get around. the bus system is remarkably easy to learn, and with google maps on my phone, it was easy to plan my trips because the schedules are factored in. you can walk a few neighborhoods a day without overdoing it. and there’s always cabs.

i ate so much in seattle that i think i’m still digesting. yes, it’s thought of as a seafood town, but there’s so much more than that. so a few more culinary musts to note:
homegrown. a local/sustainable chain that was great for lunch on-the-go. i enjoyed a hearty-not-heavy soup paired with a sandwich. the kicker? a slice of sharp cheddar from pike place market staple, beecher’s handmade cheese.
top pot. here’s another place i had to swing by twice. hands down. some of the best donuts i’ve ever tasted. and they make a great latte.
serious pie. another great tom douglas spot. if you’re indecisive—and hungry—go for happy hour. individual pies are $5 a pop, so you can order a few to share, and a drink or two to pair.
-venture north to the east lake neighborhood to check out cicchetti. it’s small, but packs a punch. savory small plates, fantastic drink offerings, and it’s cozy.
oddfellows. walking into this place, i knew i’d love it. the style is right up my alley, the typography was good enough that i asked to keep a menu, and it was pretty packed. we ordered mostly appetizers to share since they were extra enticing, plus superb soup, the meatballs, and an elderflower cocktail i have yet to replicate successfully.
-one of my final destinations, was macrina bakery in belltown. if this place was near my apartment i’d easily go on a nearly daily basis. it was perfect for breakfast, lunch, and snacks to-go and the staff couldn’t have been any nicer (when you arrive minutes after they open and start rattling off an order with about two-dozen items, making some changes because something new caught your eye, it’s a miracle they can be that patient and kind). having some yummy goodies in my carry-on was what helped me survive my 6am departure…

seattle, i miss you.

i left my heart in san francisco

6 Jun

i recently took a trip to san fran. it was my first time in the northern part of the sunny, delightful state of california. as is my nature, i sampled some of the great culinary offerings in town, and had to share.

no, this is not a food blog. but plenty of people find themselves getting married in the area, looking for bachelorette destinations, or honeymooning out west. so yes, it’s all relative.

nopa: self-described as urban, rustic, organic fare, this was maybe my favorite meal of the trip. delicious cocktails and an amuse bouche so good we pleaded for seconds. word on the street is their brunch is also top-notch.

zuni: the menus are seasonal and organic, and the wine offerings are extensive. go with a few of your friends and order a lot of small plates to get the most of the menu.

gracias madre: organic mexican cuisine. it was so good i neglected to realize that the menu is entirely vegan. don’t forget to order some sangria.

fish: i guess there’s something about restaurants named fish that i like. though not technically located in san fran (it’s in sausalito), it’s right on the water.

st. helena olive oil company: on a day-trip to napa, i dropped into this adorable store, which sells many varieties of flavored oils, tasty vinegars, sauces, and other gourmet goodies. a lot of the products come in sizes small enough to give as favors (or to include in a welcome bag).

ch ch ch charleston, part 1

14 May

charleston is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the united states. i think i once heard that it’s right up there on the list after vegas, but ever since i haven’t been able to track that stat down. regardless, it should be.

i’ve been lucky enough to venture down there twice in the last five months and have found some spots ideal for weddings, honeymoons, and weekend excursions with your family, honey, or gal pals. and while you might find my little round ups helpful, don’t forget about the tourism board and their site, which offers tons more of information.

here, some of my favorite places great for holding wedding ceremonies and receptions:

william aiken house: this venue is stunning in every way. if a landmarked property, restaurant, and a courtyard had a baby, they’d name it william aiken house (and that’s pretty much what it is). and that scene in the the notebook where she’s trying in on her dress? you can say you cut your cake in that very same room.

circa 1886 and wentworth mansion: can rent out the hotel (there are 21 rooms total) and host your intimate nuptials in the courtyard before heading inside to the romantic restaurant for the reception. chef marc collins prepares great southern fare with a twist — in a lighter way — that your guests will love. i know i couldn’t get enough of the modified pear cobbler he made. delish!

the mills house hotel: your portraits would look beautiful with this salmon-exterior historic hotel as your backdrop. and, their grand chandelier is quite impressive.

middleton place: the grounds are right on the water and the camellia garden is stunning. need proof? take a look. plus, they have peacocks, water buffalo, and some other creatures roaming around the farm area that is still set up as it would have been in the olden days.

the american theater: how about holding your reception in an art-deco theater? talk about glamorous.

legare waring house: this place, with its gorgeous old house, sprawling green lawns, and ancient-looking trees, would be an amazing place to say “i do.” i loved the lawn of trees in the back in particular, which reminded me of a park in london.

founder’s hall: surrounded by natural beauty, this modern site’s clean lines and simple interior let you create your own vibe.

white point gardens: the gazebo in the middle of this park is perfect for smaller weddings. it’s right on the water, too, so you’ll have pretty views of the harbor and historic mansions. but remember that it is a public space, so you’ll have to be ok with some extra guests wandering by (but everyone there’s so nice! so it’s not such a big deal).

tomorrow, i’ll be back with tasty dining options around town and some other miscellaneous spots.